Can cats eat ham? Untamed explains it all
Before feeding any human food to your cat, you should determine whether it suits them or not. Giving them incompatible food can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal upsets and long-term health consequences. A question that cat parents often ask is: Can cats eat ham? The answer is more than a plain yes or no.
Since cats are hardwired carnivores and meat is a part of their natural diet, they obviously can eat and digest ham. While it is not outright toxic, you cannot call it a 100% safe feline food either. Unlike raw meat, ham is a heavily processed product made from the fatty hind side of pigs. You must factor in the amount of unwanted salt and fats you’re putting on your cat’s plate and whether the portion is manageable for their digestive system.
Can my cat eat ham, and does it do them any good?
Before getting into how much ham a cat can eat, check out the nutritional values for this popular product:
Nutritional value per 100 grams
A 100-gram serving of ham would provide about 139 calories to a cat, harnessed from:
Based on nutritional performance, is ham any good for cats?
Ham is an excellent source of protein, especially amino acids (taurine and arginine) that cats cannot synthesise. But beyond that, feeding a significant portion of ham to a cat could lead to an overdose of:
- Fats and cholesterol—Cats need some fat in their diet to optimise various organ functions, stabilise body temperature, regulate reproductive hormones, and maintain coat health. Fat should come from sources like chicken, tuna, salmon, sardines, and lean cuts of pork. Since ham is full of fat and cholesterol, a cat’s liver and pancreas need to work extra hard to break them down
- Minerals—A cat’s diet should include trace amounts of minerals to control nerve impulses, maintain acidity levels, and support bone and dental health. While ham is a good source of potassium, calcium, and iron, its sodium content is too high for cats. Cats need about 42 milligrams of sodium per day, and an average slice of ham contains about 300 milligrams
What’s that bewitching nom-nom you eating human? Me hungry again. Spare me a bite, will ya?
Feeding ham to cats—what’s the ideal portion?
Despite being high in fat and sodium, ham isn’t bad for cats as long as you use it as a snack or a flavour booster in their regular meal. Cats love the rich and savoury flavour of ham, and it can bring back their appetite during cranky and fussy days.
If your cat has a diverse palate, a dash of ham to their chicken or turkey gravy will brighten up their day. It’s crucial to get the nutritional details right and serve a suitable portion of the delicacy. Don’t use ham as a replacement for a full feline meal. It works better as a snack or an ingredient in cat food.
Can cats have ham as a snack?
Veterinarians recommend that snacks don't take up more than ten per cent of your cat's daily calorie intake. Considering the low caloric needs of indoor, neutered, or spayed cats, ham snacks shouldn't have more than 25 calories. You can feed about up to 18 grams of ham to an average-sized cat in a day, slightly more to active breeds like Bengals and Siamese, or large-sized ones like Ragdolls and Maine Coons. Anything above that can create a calorie surplus in their diet, potentially leading to weight gain, arthritis, or Type 2 feline diabetes.
You should also avoid letting your cat snack on ham frequently to prevent overconsumption of sodium. Limit such treats to once or twice per week, and don’t give them other high-calorie snacks—like eggs, milk, cheese, or similar dairy products—whenever they feast on ham.
Some kittens and adult cats may also be allergic to ham. If you are feeding it to your cat for the first time, watch out for signs of diarrhoea or nausea in the next 24 hours. If ham doesn’t make them sick, you can add it to the menu as an occasional treat.
Can cats eat ham slices?
Don't give an entire slice of ham to your cat. Like bacon, each medium-thick ham serving overflows with calories and contains around 300 milligrams of sodium. If your cat fancies the ham you’re having for lunch, offer them a bite-sized morsel only.
Can cats eat cooked ham?
Seasoning can be dangerous for cats, so be careful while feeding them cooked ham. Many ham recipes include the use of root and stem vegetables like onions, chives, garlic, etc., which are toxic to cats.
Ham is often cured with salt, so adding more to a cooked dish can lead to sodium poisoning. Many recipes also include sugar to get that seductive glossy glaze on meat, which can mess up your cat’s blood glucose levels and lead to diabetes if consumed frequently.
The takeaway is—ham dishes for human consumption can be unhealthy and even toxic to your furry companion. Cooked ham must be unseasoned if you want to serve it to your cat.
Can cats eat gammon?
While gammon is not sold smoked and ready-to-eat, it is still cured by dry-salting or brining, so it has a similar nutritional value. Take the same precautions while feeding gammon to your cat, as you would do for ham.
Since gammon is not cooked, its dense texture may be harder to digest for senior or toothless cats and those with sensitive stomachs. If you decide to give it to your feline, cook it without seasoning.
Is ham ok for cats? It can be if you use the right serving tricks!
Source: Karo Kujanpaa
Can a cat eat ham added to cat food?
Ham can be added to different types of cat food in a tiny amount—not more than five per cent of the total ingredients. It lends an extra kick of flavour to wet food, making it highly palatable and aromatic.
If you love cooking homemade meals for your feline, add a bit of ham to their fresh chicken or fish soup. The meal will smell fantastic to cats, and it can be poured as a topping to make any dull dry cat food tastier. It will also moisten up the coarse texture of biscuits.
What about the bones—do cats eat ham bones?
Discarded ham bones can be used to make healthy broths for cats. Unlike ham, the bones don’t have the salt or fat ruining their nutrition profile. You can simmer them with meat to make a moisture-rich snack for your cat. Make sure to remove the bones and vegetables once the soup is done. Cooked or splintered bones can choke your cat or cause internal injuries.
The collagen in ham bone broth boosts immunity and strengthens the fur, helping with pesky hairballs. The high moisture content also prevents dehydration and related issues like IBS and constipation. Bone broth is a superb appetite booster for finicky seniors and a healthy diet snack for obese felines.
I think, therefore I ham. Drop the cam and come up with a nice snacking plan!
Source: Alex McCarthy
What if I give them more than the recommended amount? Is ham bad for cats?
Too much ham in your cat's diet can have the following negative effects:
- Salt toxicity—Don’t forget that ham is cured with salt, and eating large amounts could cause salt poisoning. The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid weight loss, lethargy, uncoordinated movements, seizures, and tremors. Salt toxicity can happen within minutes to hours, so rush your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any warning signs
- High cholesterol levels and heart disease—Feeding huge portions of ham to a cat puts too much cholesterol in their system, which stresses their organs, gradually clogs arteries, and causes heart diseases over time
- Abnormal pH levels—The normal pH level for cats is 6.0 to 6.5, but too much ham can disrupt the acidity levels, leading to thyroid disorders and urinary tract infections
- Pancreatitis—Vets warn that regular ham consumption can cause feline pancreatitis. This condition is incredibly painful and triggers various illnesses, including diabetes mellitus, hepatic lipidosis, cholangitis, and inflammatory bowel disease
- FLUTDs and kidney ailments—Constantly having to process too much fat and salt takes a toll on your cat’s urinary and renal health. The high mineral concentration in ham increases the risk of bladder stones, cystitis, chronic kidney disease, and other feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTDs)
Remember that the above issues only happen in extreme cases of deliberate overfeeding or accidental overeating. Most cats love gorging on ham and can't stop themselves, so keep ham and gammon out of your feline's reach.
Can kittens eat ham?
Never give ham to kittens, especially those still nursing or starting to eat solids. Their system may reject it, triggering severe diarrhoea and fluid loss, which can be fatal due to their weight. Once they are completely weaned off, you can introduce them to tiny servings of ham as a snack.
If you want to buy kitten food with ham, it should have low ham content, about five per cent or less. Keep in mind that kittens need a high protein diet for muscle and brain development. Focus on giving them protein-loaded hypoallergenic food for the first three to six months.
The products should contain whole meat and be grain-free. Kittens should get used to jelly and gravy products as they grow up because they may reject wet food as adults if they get hooked on kibble. Since most biscuits are high in harsh carbs, vegetables, and meat derivatives, they are not an ideal long-term diet for any cat.
Enough with the dang carbs and proteins and fats already! You’re forgetting my number one—TASTE!!
Source: (c) Untamed
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Cats who don’t get enough meat in their diet tend to ask for more human snacks, be it ham, crusted fish, peanut butter, strawberries, bananas, or even bread and rice. Some of the snacks they seek—like chocolate and grapes—are straight-up toxic.
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Mr Whiskers said, “Can I have a bit of ham on my cat food?”—We said so be it! Gotta give our furry brigade what they love!
Source: (c) Untamed
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Check out our other guides to what cats can or cannot eat: